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Non-consensual sharing of intimate images to be made a criminal offence

Justice Minister Helen McEntee will bring plans to Cabinet on Tuesday following a leak of tens of thousands of images featuring Irish women.

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Justice Minister Helen McEntee and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris (Niall Carson/PA)

Justice Minister Helen McEntee and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris (Niall Carson/PA)

Justice Minister Helen McEntee and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris (Niall Carson/PA)

Justice Minister Helen McEntee is to bring plans to Cabinet next week that will make it a criminal offence to share intimate photographs of people without their consent.

It follows the leak of tens of thousands of private images of an intimate and sexual nature involving Irish women, which has provoked calls for Government action.

Minister McEntee said on Friday that she wants the legislation enacted “as soon as possible.”

She wrote on Twitter: “I know the recent leak of tens of thousands of intimate images of Irish women has caused so much upset and anger.

“I share that anger and I want people to know that I am determined to act and to introduce tough new laws to ensure that anyone who shares these kinds of images will face serious criminal sanctions.”

Ms McEntee said she is working with Labour TD Brendan Howlin, who introduced legislation under the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill during the last Dail.

The Minister added: “Ahead of this, I will bring proposals to Cabinet next Tuesday for inclusion in this Bill, which we want to enact as soon as possible.

“The measures I will bring to Cabinet will make it a criminal offence to share intimate images without consent.

“This is not just about revenge porn – sharing such images will become a criminal offence, regardless of the motivation of the person who passes them on.

“It will also be irrelevant if consent is given for an intimate image to be taken – I will ensure they can never be shared, even if consent was given for the image to be taken.”

Gardai confirmed on Friday night that they were investigating the incident.

More than 50,000 people have so far signed an online petition calling for the sharing of such images to be made a criminal offence.

Images and videos were from websites and apps including Instagram, WhatsApp, OnlyFans and Tinder, many of which were taken without consent and some reportedly featuring underage girls.

The decision to bring forward the legislation has been welcomed by Noeline Blackwell, CEO of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC).

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Noeline Blackwell of the DRCC has called for people to speak out if they witness non-consensual sharing of intimate images (Niall Carson/PA)

Noeline Blackwell of the DRCC has called for people to speak out if they witness non-consensual sharing of intimate images (Niall Carson/PA)

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Noeline Blackwell of the DRCC has called for people to speak out if they witness non-consensual sharing of intimate images (Niall Carson/PA)

She told the PA news agency: “That’s a very important development. I welcome that the Minster’s recognition of the need to drive forward with this legislation.

“The current legislation is legislation that has been in place since before there was any digital capacity, before the internet.

“That hampers the Gardai in dealing with online harassment, with harmful online communications. The Minister’s intention to deal quickly with this is very important.”

Ms Blackwell said it would be helpful to have more education on the subject, to make sharing of such images socially unacceptable and for people to speak out where they see it happening.

She said: “Really what we need is a society that absolutely does not tolerate it. That where somebody gets an image like that, they do not share it and they call out the really harmful behaviour that’s involved.

“I’m  not saying it’s gender specific, but there is something where some people seem to see it as acceptable in the so-called locker room talk, in blokeish talk, that is ok to non-consensually share sexual images of women.

“Internet crime will always be difficult for the Gardai to prosecute.

“What would be much more effective would be somebody calling out a friend’s behaviour, or a member of their family’s behaviour if they find that they are doing this kind of non-consensual sharing of sexual images.”

The Garda said it was investigating the allegations.

“This is a matter which has been widely circulated and commented upon in the media and on social media,” said a spokesman.

“We are acutely aware of the concern and upset that the public may have in respect of the matters reported.”

The spokesman said some comments on social media related to the issue were “not factual”

“We wish to reassure the public An Garda Siochana is working quickly to establish the factual aspect of the matters alleged,” he added.

“Any person who is concerned that they have been the victim of harassment following the uploading of personal explicit imagery online without their consent, at any time, should contact their local Garda Station.”

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